With COVID-19 spreading across the globe, one company in Mexico City has created a rotomolded solution to help curb the infection in one of the world’s largest food markets. In fact, Mexico’s plastics industry has played a large part in COVID-19 relief.
The Mexican plastics industry is a relatively young one. However, it has quickly become one of the fastest developing sectors in the country. In 2016, the country was the tenth largest worldwide plastic producer, with a market of $33 billion.
Because it is so new, the Mexican plastics industry has the unique advantage of having new machinery that is on par with, and even superior to, those in Europe, where equipment could be 50 years old. Which means there are fewer problems to contend with which in turn allows for rapid production and innovation when the country needs it most.
So, in this week’s blog post, we will cover how the Mexican plastics industry has combated COVID-19.
Hospitals and Hand Washing Stations
The Mexico City based company Grupo Rotoplas SAB de CV has teamed up with toilet cleaning brand Harpic as well as the Mexican Red Cross to install a field hospital at the Central de Abastos, an open-air food market in the borough of Iztapalapa in central Mexico City, which was considered in the early days of the pandemic to be one of the main sources of contagion in the city. The hospital has been able to provide tests and care for sufferers of COVID-19.
Developed in the 1970s, Iztapalapa is one of Mexico City’s sixteen municipalities, and with a population of 1.8 million it is the most populous. The borough is heavily working class, and the people of Iztapalapa have been still working on the streets even while the threat of the Corona virus looms. When COVID hit the Central de Abastos, it spread rapidly, with one testing center testing 15,000 people with 1,347 testing positive.
In response, in addition to the field hospital, Rotoplas has installed multiple hand washing stations across the market, which covers 800 acres, as well as hanging banners offering advice on preventative action. Because of this it is estimated that 12,000 people have benefited from the new sanitary measures.
Rotoplas is best known for manufacturing large water tanks. They have a 27 product lines operate a score of manufacturing facilities across North and Central America and employs about 3,000 people.
From Coca-Cola to Face Masks
Like most of the world, Mexico has had a hard time procuring masks for hospitals and other medical facilities. One company, food-grade PET recycler PetStar SAPI de CV, stepped up to the plate by donating around 212,000 20-calibre face shields made from 1-million plastic bottles, which in turn were donated by Arca Continental, a company that is part of the Mexican Coca-Cola industry.
The process of recycling plastics is a labor intensive one. The plastic must first be washed to remove impurities that could impede operation. Then the plastic is fed into shredders which break down the plastic into much smaller pieces. These smaller pieces can be processed into the next stages for reuse. Before that, they must be checked again for any remaining impurities and given a second wash. After the plastic is further tested and identified by class and quality, they are melted down and crushed together to form pellets. These pellets can then be molded to form items such as face shields.
Recycling plastic bottles not only helped provide more masks to frontline workers, it also kept plastic bottles out of landfills and the ocean, where they could linger for generations. Not only did PetStar provide life-saving face masks, they also helped reduce plastic waste by recycling bottles.
Much Needed Protection
Dow Inc. contributed 25,000 protective gowns to the health sector of Mexico. For healthcare professionals battling COVID-19, isolation gowns are among the most used personal protective equipment right behind masks. And like masks there has been a shortage. In response, DOW, Inc. collaborated with nine key partners across a multitude of industries to develop donate 100,000 isolation gowns to frontline workers in Texas, Louisiana, and of course, Mexico.
Michelle Boven of Dow, Inc. had this to say on the subject:
“Many companies have shown tremendous ingenuity and speed in changing over production to meet the needs for respirators, masks, face shields, hand sanitizer and other products critical to fighting this pandemic,” said Boven from Dow. “With the accelerated product development, testing and certification of these medical gowns, Dow is proud to be among these innovators and we will continue to look for ways to use our vast material science expertise to address the needs of frontline workers around the world.”
- Chemical manufacturer Alpek SAB de CV donating 500 gallons of hand sanitizing gel to public hospitals.
- Polyethylene maker Braskem Idesa S.A.P.I. donated 12 metric tons of PE for the production of one million bottles of disinfectant.
Mexico’s plastic industry is relatively young, but still booming despite the pandemic. It has expanded rapidly to become a $33 billion industry. With the increase in growth the Mexican plastic industry has been in the unique position to help the people of Mexico withstand the deadly pandemic.
Whether it’s providing lifesaving protective equipment or simply placing banners with tips on how to stay safe, the plastics industry has stepped up to help during these uncertain times.